1. Don't assume the worst
Don't take someone else's word that your credit is bad. Pull your three reports for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Then go to MyFICO.com and pay a few dollars for your one-time Equifax and TransUnion FICO scores. Even two candidates with an identical score might not be the same in the eyes of a lender, says John Van Alst, staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center. "Even if your score is tarnished, you may have a better chance than someone with the same score and no (credit) history," he says.